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Arts Equity Initiative

A May 2010 review from the Coalition of Communities of Color (CCC) reported that “Multnomah County has a particularly toxic form of racism and institutionalized racism that renders experiences of communities of color worse than their national comparisons.” Thirty percent of Portlanders and 45 percent of Portland Public School students are ethnic minorities. Mayor Sam Adams called the findings a “sad, shameful, and very compelling reality.” Since then, the CCC has released several more community specific studies for their “Communities of Color in Multnomah County: An Unsettling Profile” series, each one as shocking as the last.

Soon afterwards, Mayor Adams announced that the new Office of Equity and Human Rights and the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC), the primary distributor of government arts funding, would draft pioneering diversity benchmarks for the staff and audiences of Portland arts organizations. And in February, those benchmarks were announced. The City of Portland and RACC began by diversifying their organizations internally and have asked arts groups to submit data about the racial makeup of their staffs in 2013 and audiences in 2014. This baseline data will influence their comprehensive city-wide arts equity plan. Future funding from RACC will be dependent on the compliance of arts groups.

“This is a hard thing to do,” Mayor Adams said. “We don’t have it all figured out. But we will.”[i]



[i] Fitzmaurice, Dan (June 12, 2012). "Memphis has some good ideas about Arts for All." Oregon Arts Watch. Retrieved 2018-22-2.

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